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H. Leitner

Harvard University (UNITED STATES)
Established a century ago as an “experiment in popular education,” the Harvard Extension School was charged with using its resources to benefit the local Boston-area community by making it possible for nontraditional students to receive a liberal education. By maintaining a policy of open enrollment and affordable tuition, the Extension School has remained faithful to Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell’s original vision. With the advent of technologies that support online educational activities, the scope of Lowell’s perspective has been extended to include a global audience. Hence, the Extension School's mission contains a commitment to “experimenting and innovating with courses and teaching techniques that enhance the learning of non-traditional students” by embracing technology not only to improve and to complement the learning process, but also to make possible the delivery of its courses to geographically distant learners.

Today, more than 60% of the approximately 800 Harvard Extension courses may be taken online using a variety of technologies through which student activities and interactions are being recorded and analyzed. to carry out systematic applied research without jeopardizing its core values or impinging too much on faculty autonomy.

We are now implementing a three-part plan that includes:
1) instrumenting our classroom and instructional technologies to provide rich clickstream data,
2) implementing a faculty-focused platform for capturing course designs as structured data through description rather than prescription, and
3) adopting a continuous improvement cycle that gives faculty easy access to meaningful indicators of student experience and learning, and incentivizes data-informed course design choices.

"Learning Engineering" is a process for evidence-based course improvement via rapid iteration of experiments based on both pedagogical theory and data-driven hypotheses. The online nature of so much classroom content puts us in an ideal position to record, analyze, and act on data related to the behavior and outcomes of our learners. I will present an overview of how we are combining information from our learning management system, student information system, lecture capture and web conference platforms to gain insight into the best ways to enhance our learning environments and advance the quality and effectiveness of our courses through Learning Engineering principles.